Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WoW 2010 More Like 2008 Than 2004

There's been a lively discussion on my post from Monday about WoW's old world revamp.  To quote Longasc, who tweeted about the post and his comments thereto (which may or may not be a PVD first):
"It is a guided bus tour through Azeroth, more so than ever, an on-rails experience. The elements of challenge and failure, the whole *game* has been removed."
Aside from a discussion on the merits of this argument, I don't consider this exactly breaking news.  The state of the game today is a natural continuation of a trend that has been going since the launch of the Wrath expansion two years ago, if not since the quest system was expanded from the tutorial zones to the entire leveling game during WoW's pre-launch testing. 

The game that people talk about when they complain about the current "rails" was gone long before last Tuesday.  Two expansions' worth of talent tree revamps left players vastly overpowered compared to formerly even conned mobs - my wife and I tried to pick up our old duo from the pre-TBC days sometime a bit after Wrath launched, and we had to go 2-man instances that were supposed to be designed for five to find any semblance of challenge.  Meanwhile, the time to level was drastically decreased, partially through direct reductions in exp to level, and partially through time-savers like improved access to mounts and (recently removed) teleport options.  Less time spent on each level meant less reason to leave the beaten path for anything else, which naturally downplays the value of exploration. 

With these changes, there really wasn't a point to the world remaining in the state that it was in - even for players who actually wanted the 2004 experience, the content was no longer serving that purpose.  For players who actually enjoy the low stress guided tour approach to questing, there were 40+ levels of unpolished old world content to slog through before getting to the expansions.  Players who just wanted to blaze through to the group endgame had even less reason to enjoy this part of the game, until the dungeon finder functionally replaced it by enabling low level instance pugs last year.  Whether or not the 2010 version of Azeroth is better than the 2004 version, it's definitely better than the 2008 version because at least now it's consistent.

Aside: too much content?
Ironically, Blizzard may have caused problems for themselves by actually creating TOO MUCH content in the low levels.  There's a reason why the stereotypical kill quests calls for ten rats, rather than five or twenty; the number of kills is supposed to move players out of each area after they've had a chance to take a look around but before they feel that they've been trapped in a boring grind. 

Blizzard seems to have made an effort to build satellite hubs around every camp that was in the pre-Cataclysm game, at least in the early zones I've seen.  The result is that they have to move you on from some areas at six kills, rather than ten, because the exp from the extra four mobs would push you out of the level range for the zone.  This is faster than players expect, and leaves us feeling like we're being dragged along by the metaphorical train.  Dun Morogh, for example, might actually have been better if Blizzard had declared half of the zone exploded by the Cataclysm and had doubled the kill requirements for the remaining material. 


  1. "This is faster than players expect"

    Faster than veteran players expect, perhaps. I still would like to see some real newbies writing about the game.

  2. Tesh, do new players have any expectations about leveling speed? I don't remember caring about leveling speed when I started playing. I had some concept of end-game, but it wasn't something that I was in a rush to get to. Speed just doesn't seem like a major factor for new players, but fun, most definitely. If they're having fun it could take a year to hit 80 and I'm not sure they'd care. It's us old players who demand fast leveling.

    I definitely felt the rails experience in Wetlands, where I was getting pushed from hub to hub constantly. Kill 10 of these and 10 of those and talk to that person and you're off to the next hub.

  3. Are there any real newbies left? It would be like being a newbie to Halo, Guitar Hero, or COD at this point: chances are you aren't playing because it doesn't appeal to you, not because you are new.

  4. That's a great point about too much content. I noticed it the last few times I decided to start new characters, and even in the Burning Crusade content as well.

  5. Why on Earth are people harping WoW for helping you level? I have been a part of World of Warcraft since the beginning, and aside from the laughable raids and heroics that WOTLK introduced, Blizzard has released nothing but stellar content to its game. The addition of the Dungeon Finder, built-in quest log, and partially enhanced leveling experience (gained) has been some of the best choices Blizzard could have made. They improved their game.

    It seems to me that opinions like this are usually based on elitists who love to critically look at a game and criticize shortcomings the average person is not concerned with.

    Everything that WoW is supposed to have as of now is available. We have great dungeons, a great leveling experience, tons of content, and a polished gaming experience overall. It seems to me that no matter what Blizzard does to appeal to the masses that enjoy the game, some people just need to pick at it for the sake of being that one in a thousand that don't enjoy the game versus those that do.

    It's sad really..

  6. It's not necessarily bad but it certainly feels different. Pre-shattering I had X amount of quests in each zone and as I outlevelled them I basically left each zone with its own problems to solve. Now I'm constantly resolving their problems, so it's a very different methodology behind it. Which is cool, even if it does feel a little like constantly being shunted from place to place now.

  7. I'm a fairly new player - 10 months as of this writing. However, one thing I really liked in my character growth to 80 was that there were dozens of different paths and I could pick and choose between them. This even applied to late-game content. I skipped entire zones in Outland and Northrend, and actually spent most of my 77-80 time in northern Icecrown.

    In Cata, this wide-open variety has been taken away. At 80, there are exactly 2 places you can go. You get there, and there are 2 or 3 available quests. You complete those available quests and you get 2 or 3 more.

    In fact, I'd suggest that there is even less variation than this, because of the difference in quest rewards between the zones. (I'm a feral druid.) Are you physical DPS? Go to Hyjal. Caster? Go to Vash'jir. You won't find much you can use if you switch these up.

    I haven't gotten far enough into it to determine how the game guides you to the next set of zones. But yeah, I'd say that there's little obvious flexibility in this expansion - coming from a relative noob to the game world.

  8. @ Mato...Are you implying there were more than two starter zones in wrath?

  9. I see the new cata 1-60 as a bit more story based. The olde world made it very easy to skip large chunks of story and have no context for what was going on. The WoW devs really like the story they have made and want you to be part of it. (It is an RPG after all.) So, i see the new leveling as a way for them to keep you on the story rails and keep you moving around. Also, the new questing fills you in a bit more than the old seemed to, imo.

    Also, I like it, but have been playing for 5 years, so my patience for the old world leveling curve actually prevented me from leveling alts which I have since dusted off. "You want me to go where?! I ragequit for the night!"

  10. This is interesting that you mention it because it's an obvious precursor to similar story driven games (mainly SW:TOR) which will become the 1 major competitor to WoW. I am by no means a TOR fanboy, but just looking at the writing on the wall. Basically the game that will get this right in the end will have that exploration and story driven nature so finely tuned within it's gameplay that it can cater to every crowd. There needs to be options for players, a good story driven questline that does remain open ended enough to satisy the explorers out there.

  11. Thanks for the thoughtful post. Having played since early BC, I have felt that all of the new leveling is very fast and very controlled. I miss the ability to go where I want to go and do the quests I want to do. I can't take my level 2 Worgen over to Elwynn just because I like the colors better. It's now changed to "If you haven't done Quest X, Quest Y will not open and you have nothing to do here. And P.S., you have to do this before we let you leave." I like the new, but I'm not a big fan of the controlled and almost frantic pace.

    However, I'm also playing with my brother, who's new to the game, and for him, "Kill 6 Xyz" is HUGE. For those still figuring out where their sword is and what slot that quest reward goes in, I think it's perfect. They've done a stellar job at making it easy for new players to come into the game and learn the basics.

    So as a veteran player, I don't really like the loss of choices in leveling, content, talents, etc., but I do see that they're hitting their intended mark: access to and retention of new players while mostly appeasing the other 12 million with "new".

  12. Whenever I read posts like this the first thing that pops into my head is "why are people so eager to jump on these matters?" The game offers you a huge variety of choices as to what you want to do. The exploration factor that existed in the "old"-old world was not for everyone. If someone really wants to explore they can do so. I can agree that these silly little conveniences they've added left and right (grabbing a taxi ride to the next area for example) are just that, silly. But you have this feeling of being on rails because the game is story driven and that can only be a good thing. It sucked that you had to read through endless quest text just to get the story. It sucked even more when you didn't feel a sense of continuity within that story too. I guess it all just boils down to what you want to get out of the game. In my frame of mind Blizz has made the best choices. They have us go through a story and then experience end game. Let's not forget that last bit too, which is mostly what the community has shown that they are interested in. A lot of people want to get to end game without having to grind levels endlessly. Just my two cents. Enjoy the game the way you want to. You have choices.

  13. Excellent points. I've felt this way ever since wrath, like it's not really a challenge anymore. Sure, wrath (and presumably now also cataclysm) added wonderful scenery and interesting new quests to the world, but virtually the only threat to me now is players from the opposite faction.


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